Flowing from the Himalaya to the Indian Ocean, the Irrawaddy winds through the heart of Myanmar (Burma), providing essential resources and livelihoods to the people who reside on its shores. Journey along this mighty waterway on Scenic Aura, and witness an ever-changing landscape of timeless villages, shimmering stupas, and enchanting ancient sites. Experience the daily rhythms along the river and get to know the country’s warm and friendly people on visits to bustling towns, artisan workshops, and monasteries. From the glorious temples of Bagan to the glittering Shwesandaw Pagoda in Pyay, explore some of Myanmar’s most spectacular sights, and experience a culture long cut off from the world.
Arrive in Mandalay and board Scenic Aura. Enjoy a welcome reception and dinner as we set sail.
Scenic Aura for the entire voyage
Begin the day with a visit to the Irrawaddy Community Conservation Project in Hsithe. Meet a project representative to learn about the Irrawaddy dolphin, and find out how local communities are working to preserve this critically endangered species. Learn to fish as the locals do, then discover the birdlife in nearby Singu. Continue to Mingun to view the Mingun Pahtodawgyi, massive Mingun Bell, and the Hsinbyume Pagoda.
An important religious center, Sagaing was once the capital of the 14th-century Sagaing Kingdom. Meet novice monks at a monastic-supported school, then visit a nearby nunnery, where we’ll make a traditional donation to the resident nuns. Travel to Amarapura, and enjoy sundowner drinks on a local boat as we float beneath U Bein Bridge—believed to be the world’s longest teak footbridge.
Step ashore at Myinmu and drive to Monywa. Here, we’ll venture into a massive system of sandstone grottoes to view Buddhist murals and statues dating back to the 14th century. Take in scenes of rural life along the riverbank as we continue sailing south this afternoon. In the village of Yandabo, watch potters at work, witness traditional face-painting, and learn about typical Burmese clothing. Continue to Bagan to meet the director of Bagan's Archaeological Department, who will discuss efforts to repair the Bagan temples in the aftermath of the 2016 earthquake.
Float above the temple-strewn plain of Bagan on an optional balloon ride this morning (weather permitting). Visit the Lawkananda Wildlife Sanctuary to learn about efforts to protect critically endangered endemic species, including a breeding program for the Burmese star tortoise overseen by National Geographic grantee Kalyar Platt. Alternatively, travel to Mount Popa, or explore Old Bagan town. Later, join a local archaeologist to tour the Bagan plain by horse cart, and learn about ongoing restoration on visits to some of the site’s most significant temples. Cap off the evening with a traditional string puppet show.
Rise early and attend a morning almsgiving with local monks. Later, encounter the impressive Ananda Temple, then visit artisans to see the production of traditional Burmese lacquerware. Continue cruising downstream to Salay. Set out to explore the area’s highlights, including Mann Paya, which houses a 20-foot gold buddha, and the wooden monastery of Youqson Kyaung. Soak up the ambience along the riverside while enjoying traditional Burmese tea in a restored colonial villa.
Enjoy the views from on deck as we sail to Magwe, where we will explore by trishaw. Later, take in a spectacular panorama from Magwe’s largest shrine, Mya Tha Lun Pagoda. The next morning, tour the Minhla Fort, and stop at the small village of Patho for a walking tour. Enjoy an opportunity to meet some of the local monks and observe their daily rituals. Take in the vibrant rhythms of a traditional dance performance this evening.
Explore Sri Ksetra, an ancient Pyu Kingdom that flourished between the fifth and ninth centuries—and Myanmar’s first World Heritage-listed site. Later, visit the glittering Shwesandaw Pagoda, one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Myanmar. Disembark with a picnic lunch and drive to Yangon. Visit the Allied War Cemetery in Htauk Kyant, then continue to the airport to connect with your flight home.
- Yangon Extension
Extend your stay in Myanmar by soaking up the rich culture of Yangon, the city’s former capital. Take in the juxtaposition of old and new as you meander amid gleaming high-rises and colonial-era buildings. Gaze at the great, gilded stupa of Shwedagon Pagoda, the spiritual heart of the city, and visit a traditional fishing village to get a taste of rural life. Take part in a lamp-lighting ceremony alongside local pilgrims, then cap off your stay with a memorable meal at the Strand Hotel, one of the city’s most iconic landmarks.
Disembark our ship with a picnic lunch and drive to Yangon. Just outside of Yangon, stop in Htauk Kyant to visit the poignant Allied War Cemetery, dedicated to the Allied soldiers who lost their lives in the country during WWII. From here, continue to your hotel in Yangon.
Spend the day exploring Yangon, Myanmar’s former capital. Choose to board a local train for a ride through Yangon’s rural suburbs and townships, taking in scenes of daily life along the way. Alternatively, enjoy a guided tour of Yangon’s thriving art scene, or take a ferry across the Yangon River to the small fishing village of Dala, where we’ll explore the town and observe local traditions. Later, visit the Chauk Htat Gyi Pagoda, which houses a colossal reclining Buddha topped with a diamond-encrusted crown. As the sun sets, visit the Shwedagon Pagoda, a soaring, gilded pagoda decorated with more than 4,000 diamonds. Learn about the Burmese ritual of oil-lamp lighting before partaking in this tradition alongside local pilgrims and families. After, gather for a farewell dinner at the iconic Strand Hotel, built in 1901 and considered one of the city’s landmarks.
After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your flight home.